Daylight savings ends Sunday but experts say Dutch residents get too little sunlight

On Sunday the Netherlands is setting its clocks back to winter time. Which means that until your system adjusts, it will feel like you can get up an hour later. Chronobiologist Marijke Gordijn of the University Medical Center Groningen, who studies the functioning of the human biological clock, warns that most Dutch don't get enough sunlight - especially now that the days are getting shorter in winter, RTL Nieuws reports.

Sunlight plays an important role in the functioning of humans' biological clock, according to Gordijn. Too little sunlight can have a major effect on people's mood and sleep, which can cause all kinds of health problems. If you take in more light during the day, you sleep better in the evening. "It is not so much about sleeping longer, but about the quality of sleep", Gordijn said to the broadcaster.

"How quickly you fall asleep, how often you wake up during the night and how deep you sleep; the quality of your sleep has a huge effect on your body", she said. "For example, if you sleep poorly, your hormone balance changes, which increases the risk of obesity. And there are direct connection between your eyes and the brain that control your mood. Insufficient light influences your mood negatively and can even lead to depression." 

To make sure you get enough sunlight this winter, Gordijn suggests going outside for an half an hour every morning between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Eat lunch outside. If you work indoors, do that as close to a window as possible. Brave the cold some evenings and do something outside, instead of watching TV under a blanket. And make sure you get enough sleep. Going somewhere sunny for a few days during the winter can also be a great help.

The Dutch will also have to adjust their biological clock to the clock on the wall as winter time goes into effect. To quickly get used to the new rhythm Gerard Kerkhof, professor of psychophysiology at the University of Amsterdam, suggests starting a few days early and adjusting your clock in steps. Don't set the clock back one hour immediately, but do it over two days and set the clock back 30 minutes each, he said to NU.nl.

"Most people don't care about moving the clock on Sunday and continue with what they normally do. But then the man with the hammer comes on Monday morning. If you set the clock back in two steps, you'll make it easier for yourself", Kerhof said. He gives the same advice to people with children. 

Daylight savings, or 'summer time' as it is referred to in the Netherlands, was first introduced in 1916. The system was abolished again in 1946, after which it was reintroduced in 1977. Over the past years there have been multiple calls from within the European Commission to abolish daylight savings again.

The EU countries are still considering which time they want to stick to - summer time or winter time. The plan was that the European Union Member States would announce their decision early this year, but that has been postponed until 2021 at the earliest so that more research can be done into the effects of summer time and winter time.

"That is a good thing", Bert van der Horst, professor of chronobiology and health at Erasmus Medical Center, said to NU.nl. "We should not make a decision based on emotion, but on knowledge. Summer time sounds happier than winter time, but our winter time has been the standard time for years."

Public health institute RIVM recently published a literature study showing that it is best for people's health to set a time in line with the natural day and night rhythm of the earth. That is winter time in the Netherlands. A survey conducted last year also showed that the majority of Dutch prefer winter time. 

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